O Lucky Man!

Malcolm MacDowell first appeared on screen as Mick Travis in If?, Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 film about rebellion in an English private school. Five years later, Anderson and MacDowell brought Travis back in O Lucky Man!, a film exhilarating contradictions: intricately structured yet with a improvisatory feel, it tells an allegorical tale of the evils of capitalism with a sardonic mind and a light heart. Imagine Voltaire’s Candide restaged by Bertolt Brecht, then redeemed by performers (Rachel Roberts, Ralph Richardson, a very young Helen Mirren) who seem to be having the time of their lives. As the fable unfolds, the ambitious Travis embarks on a career as a coffee salesman only to find himself falling into a bottomless pot of hot water, scalded by seduction, duplicity, greed, betrayal, and corruption. Throughout, the musician Alan Price (a founding member of The Animals) comments on the action in on-screen renditions of the superb suite of songs he composed for the film. For all its black humor, watching the film is a joyful experience, in no small part because of Price’s presence. –